Imagine a future in which intercontinental air travel is less damaging to the environment than it is today. You would be a passenger of innovative aircraft capable of traveling enormous distances without increasing the carbon footprint. For the FlyZero team, the key is developing eco-friendly powertrains that use the liquid hydrogen as a zero emission fuel.
The group of researchers led by the UK Institute of Aerospace Technology has not just run out of ideas on paper. With the aim of reinforcing their project, they have developed a concept for a futuristic mid-size aircraft. According to his calculations, the aircraft will be able to reach the speeds of today’s passenger planes and, in some cases, exceed the number of passengers on these.
The green plane with “squirrel cheeks”
One of the great challenges of today is to reduce the environmental impact caused by long-distance air transport. Under this premise, more than 100 aerospace experts from the FlyZero project examined the pros and cons of the different propulsion alternatives and discarded the less promising ones until they were left with the last option.
The batteries were quickly out of the race by their huge weight. Bad news for the Spirit of Innovation and its “densest battery in the world? Ammonia – yes ammonia – was also out of the game because of its harmful emissions and the weight of the required powertrains and fuels. One of the most popular alternatives. promising, hydrogen in a gaseous state, was crossed off the list for occupying too much space and offer reduced autonomy.
The big winner was the liquid hydrogen. This type of fuel, according to FlyZero, is ideal for large combustion engines in passenger aircraft. Likewise, this type of system would allow to travel long distances and reduce the need for refueling in the middle of the trip.
Using this data, the team envisioned a medium-size, liquid hydrogen-powered concept aircraft. Its design sports a very unique feature: “squirrel cheeks.” This protrusion emerging from the aft fuselage would be necessary to house cryogenic fuel tanks.
This would have capacity for 279 passengers and could reach the 9.723 km flight without the need for refueling. These features would allow the FlyZero aircraft to make intercontinental flights with just one stop. For example, as you point out Newatlas, the Boeing Dreamliner can cover 13,950 km with about 242 passengers.
FlyZero believes that this type of aircraft “will have a higher operating economy than conventional aircraft from the mid-2030s.” However, there are still challenges to be solved such as the development of technologies for these aircraft, storage, distribution, the price of hydrogen and, of course, safety.
Image | Aerospace Technology Institute